Dawn broke and the brothers were already up following the direction they knew the goblin raiders were heading. When the sun shone enough, a thin line of smoke rose above a nearby hill.
“That’s them,” growled Smalls.
“Indeed,” his brother agreed.
“We don’t stop until we reach them,” Smalls declared.
“Agreed,” Biggs affirmed.
There were no more words shared between the pair for several hours. Short though they may be, Dwarves are capable of covering significant ground when they set their minds to it; biting bits of food while they marched and drinking water without slowing, they didn’t deviate from their goal. The tracks of the goblins confirmed they were indeed on the right path.
By midday the brothers reached the goblin’s camp from the night prior. Each dwarf knew they were a half day ahead by the time the sun rose and no more than that by then.
Biggs pointed out the obvious, “We can read them by nightfall.”
“Aye,” Smalls agreed.
“An attack at night is risky. They will see better than we,” Biggs cautioned.
“Aye. But we are fighting for vengeance and they just to survive. We’ll scatter them without a doubt, brother. Besides, they won’t imagine any are following them.”
“They may be within distance of their clan. What if they reach it before we overtake them?”
“Then we kill the entire clan I suppose,” Smalls warned.
Biggs shrugged his shoulders. It was not possible that a pair of dwarves, even two as talented at killing goblins as they, could kill an entire goblin clan. What his brother was really saying was that they had better catch up with the raiding party before they reached their home.
No more than a few minutes after finding the goblin’s prior campsite, the brothers continued on, this time at a bit of a trot. As they bounded forward their equipment clanged badly. It was exhausting work as the chain armor was already heavy not to mention their weapons. Normally they would not travel armored as they were but they could not count on time to don their chain shirts and arm themselves before an encounter with the goblins so they had to compromise and deal with the extra drain on their energy and the soreness in their muscles. Their skin was tough enough but their resolve was tougher still, so the extra inconvenience was hardly noticeable.
The pair came over a hill and a wide but not especially long valley stretched before them. They could see the goblin party making their way across. On the far side was what was clearly a goblin clan. There were no trees nearby as they had likely been cut to supply the goblins with wood and there were some small fires burning by an apparent entrance to a cave in the hill on the far side.
“Oh for the love of ale, they are almost home,” Biggs cursed.
“We can’t let them reach it,” Smalls resolved.
Biggs looked at his brother. He saw the fire in Smalls’ eyes. Biggs nodded, “What’s the plan then?”
“Doesn’t seem like there are many options.” Smalls searched for an answer. He pointed to his right, “See that tree line there?”
“Probably a creek or something there as well right?”
“Well we are just going to have to run to catch up with them. If we’re lucky, there is a creekbed at least and we can run on that. The trees should conceal our movement long enough to close the distance and if we are really lucky perhaps there is actual water flowing that might help muffle the sound we are going to make. What do you think?”
“It’s our only chance, brother.”
“Right, let’s get to it then!” Smalls cheered as he began sprinting down the hill and towards the tree line.
Biggs huffed in dismay but then dutifully sprinted after his brother and his clanging assortment of axes which rose and fell like feathers of a deadly bird.
They made it to the tree line and indeed there was a creek bed and it was in fact mostly dry which made it a decent place to run. Their muscles began to burn but not more than the hatred in their hearts for goblins and their desire for more vengeance.
Every hour or so the dwarves would looked past the trees to see if they were gaining on the goblins and in fact they were making very good progress. When they began their sprint towards their targets they were approximately two hours behind them. Their speed meant they were moving twice as fast and still appeared to have time to reach the party before they were within range of their home. The dwarves did not want to rouse the entire clan of goblins; at least not that day.
Nearly four hours in to their run and the dwarves were close enough to consider engaging the group of goblins and also significantly winded. Smalls stopped running much to Biggs’ delight.
“We can’t fight them this tired,” Biggs gasped.
“I know. We will rest a minute,” Smalls panted.
Each of them drank water and sat down resting their burning legs. They could hear the goblins squealing and cackling nearby. They sounded like they had no fears or concerns in the world. The brothers were going to change that.
In only a few minutes the brother’s breath slowed and the feeling in their feet returned. They didn’t want to wait too long before engaging the party. Every minute that passed they discovered a new pain in their bodies. They looked to one another and knew it was time. Biggs stood and drew his long bow from his back and strung it. Smalls pulled a pair of throwing axes.
“How many were there?” Biggs asked.
“I counted nine.”
“We should be able to get that down to four or five before engaging hand to hand. Want me to fire from the tree line while you charge?”
“Aye, I don’t want any to run for the hill. If they get there we will have a whole mountain of them on us. We need to slay them quickly before they think they are routed and before they can run. If we can do this quickly enough, the rest won’t hear us or at least won’t think it was an attack.”
“And when they are dead?” Biggs wondered.
“I say we drag them to this tree line. They might have stolen some things we can return to the town. Or who knows with goblins. They are always carrying bizarre trinkets. “
“Ha!” Biggs chuckled, “That’s so true. Ok, I like it. I’ll begin firing my bow from the tree line. Looks like they are only fifty yards or so from it. If I’m lucky I can drop a couple of them before you even get there. When you’re about to engage them I’ll follow up. Save some for me?”
“Don’t count on it brother,” Smalls smiled. Then they each hopped to their feet and made their way down the creek bed to close the last remaining distance between them and their goal. They were merely jogging this time, trying to limit the amount of noise they created but also needed to move faster than the goblins.
It did not take much longer for the dwarves to reach the goblin party who was laughing and playing as they nonchalantly walked towards their home; feeling entirely safe so close to their den. A quick moment to assure one another that they would prevail and Smalls began running from the tree line as Biggs stepped into the setting sun and fired an arrow from his bow at the goblin in the rear of the group.
The arrow twisted and turned and buried itself into the side of the unprotected and unsuspecting goblin, splitting its liver. The beast yelped and clutched his side. The remaining eight looked back at their comrade and another arrow took a second goblin in the back, piercing a lung forcing him to gasp for breath as he tried to reach the shaft.
This time the goblins looked around and they saw a charging dwarf armed with a pair of throwing axes with rage in his eyes and in every line of his countenance. The beasts pulled crude blades from their belts and prepared to meet their attacker foolishly believing it was only the one. The mistake allowed another of Biggs’ arrows to strike one high in the groin dropping it to the ground in wails of pain.
Biggs drew his sword then slung his bow across his back and rushed to join his brother before there was no more blood to be spilt.
Six goblins squared off before Smalls in a semi organized line. The dwarf began to roar as he launched his pair of throwing axes at the line. One split a goblins chest but the other glanced off the blade of another and fell harmlessly before the melee. Five remained. Smalls pulled the great axe from his back its twin blades flashing in the setting sun sending a blinding light at his enemies before he met them with a crash.
Smalls swung the axe in a wide sweeping motion wide enough to reach all five goblins. One goblin successfully ducked under the attack. A second tried to block it with his blade but was sent tumbling to the ground. The third tried to move towards the attacking dwarf but was struck by the shaft of the axe and knocked down. The fourth failed to anticipate needing to avoid the attack and took the blade directly in the side, severing his arm and splitting his ribs. He was unable to even sound protest as he fell dead to the grass. Four remained. The blow halted Smalls’ attack and the fifth was spared any need for action.
The final goblin saw his companion murdered next to him and looked down at the grizzly sight before lifting his blade to try and avenge him. Smalls spun into the attack and his back slammed against the goblin before he could even get his blade into a threatening position. The force shoved him backwards and flung him to the ground. This momentum allowed Smalls to pull his axe from the slain goblin and raise it to a ready position once more.
The remaining four goblins scrambled to their feet. By now Smalls knew victory was his and the smile on his face betrayed his delight in slaying more goblins. He swung his axe wide once more to force all of them back and when one stumbled, Smalls swung it overhead and then directly down nearly splitting the pathetic beast in half.
That move left him vulnerable for a moment but it wasn’t the first time so when the remaining ones tried to slash at him, Smalls rolled towards the newly slain goblin and pulled his axe free at the same time, landing back on his feet with his weapon in two hands across his chest.
“Come on you cowards,” Smalls challenged. The last three looked at each other then back to Smalls. They rushed at him with blades high and Smalls lunged forward with his axe horizontal across his body and halted their attack while their blades were still raised above their heads then shoved them backwards. Each fell to the ground and their resolve failed them.
Each goblin left his sword on the ground and began to run in any direction away from the now blood covered dwarf. Smalls hacked at the nearest, taking his legs off completely. The next one he sprinting then leaped at with his axe high above his head once more nearly splitting the goblin in half. The final beast was already several yards away and Smalls wasn’t likely going to chase him down so he pulled another throwing axe from his belt and, after a moment to steady his aim, threw the axe with his remaining strength taking the goblin in the base of his neck and killing him before he hit the ground.
Just then, Biggs reached the battle only to find no more enemies on their feet. He smiled at his brother with his sword in his hand.
“You rule Smalls,” Biggs congratulated.
“You rule Biggs,” his brother returned. They smiled at each other once again victorious against a group of goblins. The scales of vengeance somewhat more satisfied than they were when the day began.